07/08/14 1:00pm

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Is it possible to create twins via cloning? Because that’s the only way to enjoy all the top-notch live music in Queens this Thursday, when the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the country’s best Beatles tribute band come to town.

At 7 pm, the Met — in association with SummerStage and City Parks Foundation — will host a concert in Socrates Sculpture Park featuring Mary-Jane Lee (soprano), Ginger Costa-Jackson (mezzo-soprano), and Yunpeng Wang (baritone), accompanied by Dan Saunders (pianist). They will perform arias and duets from a variety of operas. At 7:30 pm, Strawberry Fields (above), a group that former President Bill Clinton praises in his book Giving, will take its audience on a Magical Mystery Tour through the Fab Four’s biggest hits as part of the Central Astoria Local Development Corporation’s 2014 Waterfront Concert Series. Then at 8 pm, the New York Philharmonic, which is the county’s oldest symphony orchestra, will venture away from Lincoln Center to give a free concert with Strauss, Smetana, Tchaikovsky, and Alan Gilbert as the conductor in Cunningham Park.

Opera details: Metropolitan Opera Recital, Socrates Sculpture Park (below), 32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, July 10th, 7 pm, free. 

Beatles details: Strawberry Fields, Astoria Park Great Lawn, Shore Boulevard between Hell Gate Bridge and Astoria Pool, Astoria, July 10th, 7:30 pm, free.

Orchestra details: New York Philharmonic in the Park, Cunningham Park, 193rd Street near Union
Turnpike, Fresh Meadows, July 10th, 8 pm, free.

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07/07/14 11:00am

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I say this every time that the Mister rings his bells: Mrs. Softee is lonely during the torrid nights of a New York summer, wondering for whom her man plays his song. Mister Softee is no damn good, and she’s sure of it.

Pictured above is a proper “Mister Softee” truck, found on its rounds in Astoria one night, doing exactly what he told the Mrs. that he’d be up to. The mister’s wearing his proper “trade dress” and nothing is as it shouldn’t be (except that I was walking the dog and didn’t have a penny on me, so I couldn’t buy a vanilla cone with sprinkles. Frankly, the dog was more upset than me about this, but there you go.)

Of late, however, something strange has been going on in Queens – someone has been impersonating the Mister.

More after the jump (more…)

07/03/14 11:03am

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One thing that the good people of Queens cannot be accused of is a dearth of patriotic flag displays.

Old Glory is found waving everywhere hereabouts, and is particularly conspicuous in the lead up to the Fourth of July holiday. Independence Day in my neighborhood, Astoria, means that in between the flags, there will be a pall of BBQ smoke hanging about in the air and every neighborhood dog will be hiding in the bathtub when the sun goes down and the neighbors begin to detonate their fireworks.

More after the jump. (more…)

07/01/14 12:30pm

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The Spot: Rèst-âü-Ránt, 30-01 35th Avenue, Astoria

The Deal: By this point, most Astoria residents have probably visited Rèst-âü-Ránt. It has been an Astoria institution for the last seven years. The cleverly named establishment could be called a wine bar, a craft beer hall or a small plates restaurant and each description would be accurate. The menus focus on carefully curated wines and beers and dishes of easily sharable nibbles in equal measure, creating a friendly, social atmosphere that has keep locals returning and first-timers venturing out for the busy schedule of happy hours, comedy shows and live music.

Owner Tina Stipanovic began in the restaurant industry (or in this case, it’s the Rèst-âü-Ránt industry) to support her artistic pursuits. Eventually she combined her two passions into the successful endeavor. Stipanovic built much of the interior woodwork by hand – including the convivial U-shaped bar – and manages the menu with as much care. She ensures that everything is made in house and, as often as possible, ingredients are sourced locally.

More after the jump (more…)

06/30/14 11:00am

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I’ve been missing 5Pointz something fierce lately, so after meeting some friends from the City for lunch nearby Astoria Park recently, we paid a visit to the Welling Court Mural Project. There is a LOT of street art going on here, and there has been since 2009, when the Ad Hoc Art group began the project.

Welling Court can be found here, btw.

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There’s a lot of terrific stuff here. The comic guy in me loved Fumeroism’s Yellow Hulk.

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As mentioned, this is a curated project which is in its fifth year of installation.

From Ad Hoc Art’s Facebook page:

The Welling Court Mural Project began in 2009 when Ad Hoc Art was invited by the community of Welling Court to slay some aesthetic blights in their neighborhood. The first project debuted in May 2010 with over 44 murals, fitting for the diverse and lively inhabitants. Each year since, spectacular crews of legendary and groundbreaking artists have come together to transform the neighborhood into a creative celebration and public art experience.

Many, many more images and lots of commentary after the jump. (more…)

06/23/14 1:00pm

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You’ll want to come back… and back… and back. The Central Astoria LDC’s Astoria Park Festival 2014 is ready to rock Western Queens for four days with copious amounts of family fun, including roughly 20 rides, live entertainment, food vendors, games and some of the city’s most spectacular sunsets. Revelers should expect the Dream Catcher, which spins patrons around as they are moved from left to right; Orient Express, a small roller coaster; a Ferris Wheel; and various fun houses. Foodies will be able to sample everything from corn dogs to freshly squeezed lemonade to deep-fried Oreos.

Details: Astoria Park Festival 2014, parking lot, Thursday, June 26th, 4 pm to 10 pm; Friday, June 27th, 4 pm to 11 pm; Saturday, June 28th, noon to 11 pm; Sunday, June 29th, noon to 10 pm, free with fees for attractions and food.

Photo: We Heart Astoria

06/17/14 1:00pm

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It’s going to knock your block off. This Saturday, the Queens Council on the Arts will open the gates of the newly designated Kaufman Arts District for a block party with art, dance, food, live music, workshops and other creative activities. Let’s begin with the food. George Rallis from William Hallet will roast a suckling pig and have a spit going with pork butt. Kim Chi Smoke representatives will offer low-and-slow Korean BBQ food, and Mike Anzalone from Singlecut Beersmiths will serve locally brewed suds. Other participants include SnowdoniaManducatis RusticaBareBurgerMamu ThaiUNO PizzeriaOvelia, and Rockaway Brewery. Entertainment will feature local wordsmith Audrey Dimola, who will recite her own prose and host a special presentation of writers and poets. There will also be plenty to look at as the Queens World Film Festival will screen the award-winning short Recursion and Sal Milazzo from The Sparrow Film Project will present one of his own films. 

Details: Queens Council on the Arts Block Party, Kaufman Astoria Studios lot (35th Avenue and 36th Street), Astoria, June 21st, 4 pm to 10 pm, $35 for a ticket, which includes soda or bottled water, signature festival cup, all-day access to artist activities, eateries and breweries, admission to the film screenings, caricatures by art students and raffle prizes.

Bonus detail: The event raises funds for Queens Council’s High School to Art School program, which guides students through the art college application process and helps them with their portfolios.

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Photos: Queens Council on the Arts

06/13/14 1:00pm

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There will be dancing in the streets. Many, many streets…bars, cemeteries, gardens, historic houses, malls, parks, nonprofits, restaurants, stoops and triangles, too. On June 21st (aka the longest day of the year), Make Music New York will host a Summer Solstice festival consisting of more than 1,000 free concerts throughout the five boroughs. From 10 am to 10 pm, musicians of all persuasions — hip hop to opera, jazz to punk, high school bands to pop stars — will do their things. Queens, of course, will be in the center of the action. For example, South African artist Toya DeLazy will perform her unique blend of hip hop, jazz and electronica at LIC Landing (52-10 Center Boulevard, Long Island City) at 1 pm. Meanwhile from noon to 4 pm, the Queens Council on the Arts (37-11 35th Avenue, Astoria) will present Reggae artist Desmond followed by Instrumental Jazz Fusion by Mind Open. Six hours of music and dance are scheduled at the Spaceworks LIC Block Party (33-02 Skillman Avenue, LIC). All told, Astoria, Corona, Elmhurst, Glendale, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, LIC, Ridgewood and Sunnyside will host events.

Click here for a complete list of all performers, venues, and times in Queens.

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06/10/14 12:30pm

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The Spot: New York Dog House, 37-06 30th Avenue, Astoria.

The Deal: The eight-month-old New York Dog House is the vision of a father-and-son duo. What began as a “whim,” according to the son, has turned into one of Astoria’s most niche restaurants after four years of fortuitous meetings. During dinner at a relaxed restaurant in Delaware, Vlad Stern and his father, Sam Stern, wanted to recreate the vibe at their own restaurant.

“It’s still fresh. It’s still new. And we plan to keep it fresh and new with an evolving menu. We’re just taking it day by day,” he says.

The days will likely get busier as folks are drawn to a spacious – and shaded – backyard during the long dog days of summer.

They’ve been aided by the neighborhood as they strive to find the perfect blend of gourmet dogs and drinks as well as a larger menu including salads and entrees to feed the area. Vlad says that comment cards in every check have yielded a positive response and plenty of constructive criticism. “People are digging it and we like that they’re digging it” he says.

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The Dish: The Far East Dog is the brain child of chef Jeffrey White. The Asian-seasoned pork sausage is topped with a generous amount of pickled daikon, scallions, peanuts and the chef’s secret chili paste sauce. “It’s very popular and very unique” Vlad says. “The Far East Dog definitely grabs our guests’ attention and gives you a sense of the attitude and creativity we have in our establishment.”

White joined the restaurant after replying to a sign in the window two months before the restaurants opening and Vlad cites the partnership as one of the fortuitous meetings “Jeffrey is very good and has plenty of room to play with the menu.”

With a chef willing to use bold flavors and a back patio perfect to dine in, Astoria residents may have found their new summer haunt. 

06/02/14 1:00pm
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It’s an 18-minute video installation which winds its way from an imaginary Chinese restaurant in Astoria to Nazi-occupied Paris, and it’s on display as a 50×8-foot-long projection in the Museum of the Moving Image’s lobby through September 21st. American Meshuggana, which the host venue commissioned, uses text-based animations set to an original jazz score on a black-and-white shot of urban traffic. The piece is by the South Korea-based, two-artist collective Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, which consists of Young-Hae Chang and Marc Voge. They specialize in a distinct brand of fast-paced, text-based video works. Using Adobe Flash, they synchronize rapidly moving text (in 21 languages) with original jazz scores, creating videos that blur the boundary between poetry and moving image.

Details: American Meshuggana, Museum of the Moving Image Lobby, 36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, on display through September 21st, free with admission.

Photo: Museum of the Moving Image